tv [untitled] December 29, 2011 9:31pm-10:01pm PST
>> welcome to district -- need your district supervisor. we're here with supervisor john avalos, from district 11, which includes the excelsior, and will sign, our mission, and crocker amazon neighborhoods. supervisor avalos was elected to the board in november of 2008. we are going to get to know him and talk about the toughest issues facing the city. welcome and thank you for joining us today. tell us a lot about your
background, where you grew up, went to school, the job you worked. >> i was born in a town called and los angeles. it was a lot of working-class folks. my father was a shore worker, my mother was an office worker at usc. my parents were divorced when i was 10 years old, and i moved to the east coast for six years before going back to california after high school. i went to school at uc santa barbara, graduated in 19988 -- 1988. i have lived in the excelsior since 1999. i have had lots of different jobs, but my main job is doing social work force and a disco, i have been a community organizer, i worked at a labor organization supporting janitor's working in our high- rise buildings. i was a legislative aide before
.wr. i got to see how it all work from the outside, community organizations supporting young people, children, families, working for labor, and saw how city hall could be an effective tool for change and then considered running in 2007, 2008, and somehow, i made it. >> you were raised in los angeles, moved to the east coast. what made you want to come back and live in san francisco? >> i love cities. i never felt like i lived in a city in los angeles, but when i lived in massachusetts, where i live, i was close to boston. i had such a great time in boston but i did not like massachusetts so much because it was cold, the culture was foreign to me. when i came to san francisco, the first time i came, there was a rainbow over the bay and
there was something calling me. i was 20 at the time. i knew that this was a place i needed to live. the history here, you can see it in terms of buildings, you know the history from, labor history, hit the history, history of what happened in 1978 with milk, mosconi. but i wanted to be a part of its. >> what got you involved in politics? >> i had been involved in politics for decades. i was doing work around central america, supporting people in central america, protecting against u.s. imperialism, and their right to live. i was doing a lot of work on campus in college. head of work against apartheid.
i was involved in a lot of the efforts to push back on efforts to remove affirmative action, prop 209, all kinds of work around ballot measures that were tough, big ideas, like single payer, but i never got involved in supporting a candidate. i never thought that a candidate would be someone that i would support, but when tom and ammiano ran for mayor against willie brown, somehow, i got inspired. i thought, it someone that has integrity and honesty, that comes from the community, could run for mayor, maybe it is we something that can represent the community. i wanted to look at it from a candid perspective. >> when you did run for the
border supervisors, what did you learn from that experience, from the campaign? >> from the campaign? so much. you knock on a lot of doors, talk to a lot of people. some of the things were interesting, how connected a lot of people were to their schools, communities. people were involved in their communities in some many ways. we have neighborhood organizations. there are so many people actively involved in the communities, neighborhoods, our organizations, child care facilities, relationships with seniors, at the park. that was something exciting to see. there were multiple ways for people to be involved as residents and members of the city. i was stunned by just how many artists were in district 11. there are so many artists who are doing incredible work that do not have a venue within their
districts to show their artwork. it inspired me and my office to sponsor artwork events, culture events. now we are starting an arts committee to get more funding, having the community be a part of deciding what kinds of parts we want to show. that was one idea that i learned from campaigning. >> what kind of art? >> you name it. we have people who make their own musical instruments. people who are artists, painters, photographers. we have an artist showing her work right now in my office. she went to africa and captured some images of youth suffering, struggling to raise children. we have well known writers in latin america that are not well known here, but in the latin american world, are very well known.
incredible amounts of vibrancy going on. musicians. it is great. >> switching gears up it, what do you feel are some of the biggest issues facing your district? >> when i was first campaigning, there were a lot of murders going on. it seems to be settling down, but we need to be vigilant. how can we have a public safety environment that is going to be collaborative between community and police? that is something that i want to work on. how can we maintain strong relationships around public safety issues. occasionally, we have a murder. how can we respond, as a community. ? we have had several murders since i have been in office, and every time i look at how i can support the family, victims, regardless of the situation. try to get people involved in
talking with the police, helping the community feels safer. these are the ways that i would like to be able to respond, something that i would always like to be a part of, the effort, as supervisor. one thing that i am tackling and expect to be for a long time is looking at how muni operates in my district. the 14 bus is one of the busiest routes in san francisco. in my district, it is very well used. oftentimes, the muni bus does not go all the way to the end of the line. i am trying to work out how we can actually extend down to daly city. so if you want to get downtown, from my area, you can take the bart it, and then go downtown, and be there within 20 minutes. right now, you take the 14 bus 2
balboa station, and it will take you 40 minutes just to get to balboa station. that is one thing i am looking at, making muni more effective. san francisco, we talk about it being a transit first city, but it does not mean a lot of options for transit are not well thought out in places further from downtown. my district is one place where we need to create better options. >> you mentioned muni and the changes that are happening. what about parking, traffic, is the area safer for pedestrians? >> there is always a lot of work to do with pedestrians. making sure the department of parking and traffic is painting along alemany. along balboa park station, geneva, san jose, pushing hard to get a ramp for pedestrians.
right now, it is dangerous to cross the street, especially if you are pushing a stroller or are in a wheelchair. you have to go further than you but typically have to. there is so much more to do. we have to figure out how to calm the traffic. a lot of cars, speeding through and make it unsafe for pedestrians. sidewalks are not very convenient for people. it takes a lot of money to do that, but it is really about being vigilant and looking at the fund the come through the transportation authority. we have been extending sidewalks in some places to help with pedestrians, trying to put in islands, plantings to slow down traffic. bike lanes have helped. a bit controversial where i live is a bike lane. people do not see as many bikes,
but we are seeing more and more common now that the bike lanes are coming in. that makes it safer for pedestrians. we have a bike way on a major street. you do not have as much time to cross, and you cut down one lane for the cars and a pedestrian can then walk more swiftly along the street. that is something that i have been supporting and want to see more of. >> switching gears, let's talk about the issues facing the city as a whole. what are some of the things that you feel could be improved upon? >> we could always go back to muni. part of the difficulty with muni is funding we are losing from the state. i think it is $65 million of year that we have lost. that creates a huge impact. we are also challenged by traffic. the buses are slow because they are contending cars crossing,
double parked. we need to figure out how to create better use of our streets. looking at crosswalks, how you can have better timed crosswalks. maybe we could have more crosswalks to crossed diagonally across the street. overall, our budget, we are in our fifth year of major budget deficits. i have been chair of the budget committee for the past couple of years. i am still involved in budget issues. i want to make sure i can be helpful to my colleagues who are grappling with our huge deficit. it is inevitable that we are going to make painful cuts, so how do we do it in a way that will minimize the impact to every day san franciscans, how can we keep our parks in good conditions? how do we maintain our safety net for public health services, public security services, public
safety? all these are critical decision that need to be made. the pension question is something that comes up. the cost of our pension liability will cost the city, especially because of our investments in the market have come down since 2008. we are spending more of our general fund to pay our pension costs. that is a big challenge. it is a long-term problem, but it also has short-term implications. we know right away we are not going to have the enough money as we need to cover our services and pension costs as well. i support efforts to figure out short-term solutions around contributions that workers can make. it is important to work collaborative way, as much as possible with labor, organizations, to come up with solutions. we have to figure out, jobs are at stake. we have to cut positions,
services. if we do not resolve the pension issue, we will have to cut services in a way that will be harmful to san franciscans. fewer options for muni, parks deteriorating, less investment in public infrastructure, if we cannot resolve these issues. the tide is rising. we need to figure out how to swim quickly. >> let's talk about the city's housing needs. what do you feel are the biggest needs and what should the board of supervisors to to address these needs? >> we have a variety of housing stock that is getting old. we have to figure out how to stabilize it. we had a bond last year to stabilize housing, to make it earthquake-safe. there are people losing homes in my district, where there are single-family homes, as well as district 10. we have a foreclosure crisis that is not being recognized in the way that it needs to be.
we need to leverage our resources in the city, which are scant, with private sector resources. there could be an opportunity to add investment firms to support home owners in my district. we are looking at leveraging funds with those to help people renovate their homes and modify their loans in a way that they can stay in housing. that is one issue. we also have apartment housing that we have to make sure is stable, safe, that we can keep renters in their place. we have to make sure that we can preserve apartment housing, which is affordable. it is important that we have a good balance between condos in the city and maintaining our apartment house in stock. that is a big pension.
i expect we will see another effort to create a condo fee. i can understand in certain conditions, it can be effective, but how can we put that port so that it is affected and rent housing from flipping over into condos? not everyone in an apartment would be able to move into a condo. i thing we need more folks at the table to decide, under what conditions will this be workable? there are a lot of people who would like to convert to condos in the lottery system and have been waiting for years to go through it. i have heard their frustration, but we do not have the formula yet to fix it, but we can get there as a city. we have the right combination of people in the city, relationships with the mayor, board of supervisors, to come up with a solution. we need to build more affordable housing. funding is an issue with our
current recession. it is hard to find funding for affordable housing. i have a lot of people in my district who are in desperate need of it. people in my district live in substandard housing, families doubled up. that is the only way they can afford to buy a home, with another family. we have people living in garages, people renting rooms. people say that there is a parking problem. we have a housing problem in district 11. it is hard for a city like san francisco to deal with, but we have to figure out how we can improve the housing situation for these people living in the sub standard situations. >> what about the issue of homelessness? what are your ideas on dealing with this? >> we have a long-term plan to combat homelessness through a continual of care. it looks at economics, housing stock, health care support, and
all those pieces need to be part of our deal with homelessness in san francisco. on the public health side, we need to make sure we have services that are going to help people stabilize their lives, how they can access mental health services, substance abuse services. a lot of people on the street are suffering from a disease of alcoholism, drug dependency. a lot of them are there because they have lost their jobs, housing. some of them are there because of hiv. that is one cause -- one part of the homeless population, but also, being homeless makes you more susceptible to contract in hiv. so we need to look at the public health system to make sure we can do our work around finding resources to get people to understand how they need to live more healthy. housing is an issue. i like the idea of building
more supportive housing that can help people have a room but also these other services i have mentioned, so that they can be stable in their housing. it is probably -- i would like to think that we can get over it, but building the housing stock, having an economy with enough jobs for people where it can be stable, services on the health side is what it will take. homelessness has been an issue that is always a perennial issue that people are using in campaigns, what they are going to do to resolve the homeless issue. sometimes, i see them being scapegoat as the cause of a problem, but we need to think of it in a compassionate way, how we can provide real care that will help people turn their lives around. the success is how we are able to help people to make the changes in their lives where they can have housing, a job, independent living, where there
are free of the services that we helped them to maintain that level of freedom. >> what about the challenges that you face in your district, the on met challenges? what about those issues? >> one of the biggest issues is jobs. young people finding work. i was just talking with the director of the department of children, youth, and families, talking about doing outreach to businesses to see how we can encourage some incentives to hire young people. that is a big issue. a lot of people are coming from families where they have one or two parents who could be unemployed. often, kids need to bring in money to the family. that is some pressure. a small minority of kids get involved in thing that may bring in money that are not good for our community. not very healthy. maybe dealing drugs. it is not a big issue in my
district, but it is there. there are enough opportunities for young people to engage in sports, recreation, and jobs, other activities. i am excited about the ocean view neighborhood. we have a new wreck center. the city foundation is looking at putting in some artificial turf there. i consider that a great opportunity where you can build sports programs, softball, baseball, soccer, football, getting people involved in productive things that are good for them. help them feel that they had good skills to contribute. from that sense of confidence, they can have success in other parts of their life, relationships with other people. i think those are beneficial for young people. i am excited to see these services come into my district. >> what are your thoughts on the
city's economic development. are we on the right track? >> we need to do what we can to create the conditions for attracting businesses here. i am not necessarily in support of doing away with our payroll tax to attract businesses -- to give a payroll tax exemption for new hires is not a good policy. changing from a payroll tax to a gross receipts tax, where it is not based on the number of employees you have and how much they are paid, but how much business you have, your business, is a better tax structure that does not harm businesses to hire more people. harman is a strong word, but does not attach the tax to your number of employees. it is a better structure, i believe.
we do a lot of things to support businesses. muni improvements happening downtown, in the more distant parts of the city. supporting businesses. infrastructure we are putting in, sidewalks, lighting. all of this is important to businesses. lots of concentration on that in the downtown area. i see it as one of the big thing that we offer. we also have a pretty city. that attracts a lot of businesses. we have certain parts of the city that have really great thinking going on. you see california, as of state. our hospitals attract a lot of minds and attention. -- uc california, sf state. >> it looks like we are just about of time. thank you for being on your